Clarkson researcher seeks interviews to see how mental health services in St. Lawrence County are perceived
Wednesday, November 6, 2019 - 1:57 pm

POTSDAM -- Local researchers have organized a study to investigate the public’s perceptions of the county’s mental health care services and availability, and they are asking for people to participate.

The study, funded through a research fellowship awarded last spring, aims to answer the question, “What are the most pressing mental health care needs in St. Lawrence County?"

Led by Elizabeth Pienkos, Psy.D., assistant professor of psychology at Clarkson University, the researchers are recruiting participants for two focus groups to explore the perceptions of mental health care and services, as well as investigate the unmet mental health care needs of the county.

If selected, people will be required to participate in two meetings, the first lasting two hours and the second, one hour. The study group, between six and eight individuals, will be asked about their experiences related to mental health and mental health care.

To be eligible to participate in the study, individuals must:

• be at least 18 years of age

• have needed help with a mental health crisis or emergency, and

• have accessed mental health services in St. Lawrence County in the past year.

Participants will undergo an initial screening to ensure eligibility and availability for the focus groups. If selected, participants will be compensated for their time, receiving $12 an hour for a maximum of $36 for completing all three hours of the focus group. They will be asked about their mental health needs, their experiences with local services and resources and their perceptions of additional community needs.

Funding for the study is being provided by the T. Urling and Mabel Walker Research Fellowship, which was awarded to Dr. Pienkos last spring. The project is intended to address the gap in knowledge between existing services and community needs.

Pienkos hopes her study will draw attention to a crucial but often overlooked aspect of well-being in St. Lawrence County and support the development of new, targeted services for community members. While several new mental health initiatives have been introduced in the county, high rates of inpatient psychiatric hospitalizations and mental health-related emergency rooms visits still exist. She anticipates being able to determine which services and supports are necessary to decrease the use of emergency services on the way to improving overall mental health and reducing the likelihood of crisis situations.

“I want to learn about what is most important to people who utilize mental health services to achieve their recovery goals and to share what is learned with local clinicians, administrators and officials,” Pienkos said. “My goal is that the data from this project will reflect the needs and values of the people who use these services and help to shape program development and strengthen future requests for funding.”

To be considered for the focus group contact Liz Pienkos at [email protected] prior to Nov. 14. Individuals wanting to take part in this study will be asked several questions to ensure eligibility and availability. They will be informed later of exact dates and times of the focus groups. Groups are expected to meet sometime in November and December. Results are expected to be presented to the community late next year.

The information collected in this study will be kept confidential, and any identifying information will be changed so individual participants cannot be identified, Dr. Pienkos said.